Jordan Spieth proved Thursday why he’s a co-favorite at the British Open.
Spieth hit just five fairways in the opening round at Royal Birkdale but cruised anyway, firing a bogey-free 5-under 65 to take an early two-shot lead when he entered the clubhouse.
Following a win at the Travelers Championship in his last start, Spieth was listed as a co-favorite (alongside Dustin Johnson) at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth made an early birdie at No. 2 but didn’t start moving deep into the red until back-to-back birdies at Nos. 8 and 9. Out in 3-under 31, Spieth was now in the solo lead.
He made a miraculous par save from left of the green at No. 10 and rolled in a mid-range putt for birdie at No. 14. Spieth then took advantage of one of two late par 5s, birdieing 17 to move to 5 under.
Spieth, a 10-time PGA Tour winner, led by two over Ian Poulter (67), Justin Thomas (through 17) and Brooks Koepka (through 16) when he posted his 65. Thomas would par out for 67 as well, but Koepka holed a bunker shot for eagle at 17 and would match Spieth with a 65 for a share of the lead.
Spieth, 23, has two major titles but his best finish at the Open is a T-4 in 2015.
Koepka, meanwhile, has never finished better than T-10 at this event (doing so in 2015, as well). But the 27-year-old is coming off his first major championship, a four-shot triumph at the U.S. Open. That’s actually his last tournament to date, as Koepka took a month off following that victory.
Whatever his schedule, Koepka is in front again. He started with seven straight pars before kicking into gear. Koepka birdied Nos. 8, 11, 12 and 13 to move to 4 under. He made a beautiful par save at the 14th thanks to a 30-footer from the fringe, but a bogey would arrive on 16.
So Koepka, now two back, simply holed that bunker shot for eagle to move back into the lead.
Koepka is in search of his third career PGA Tour win and, like Spieth, would break a trend of seven straight first-time major winners if he ended up taking the title this week. Koepka is also seeking to become the first player to win back-to-back majors since Spieth did so at the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open.